Two days after losing the Eastern Conference finals to the Houston Dynamo by an aggregate 4-2 score, D.C. United’s players cleared out their lockers and reflected on the 2012 season and what is to come in 2013.
While Marcelo Saragosa carefully took down his Brazil flag from his space and Chris Pontius and Lewis Neal horsed around, Joe Willis sat quietly on a chair by his locker, eyes off in the distance, with one shoe on and the other neglected off to the side. “Joe, what are you doing?” assistant athletic trainer and strength and conditioning coach Pete Calabrese hollered out three times to Willis.
Snapping out of his rumination, Willis finally came to: “I just got lost in thought,” he replied with a smile.
WAS 2012 "SUCCESSFUL”?
The answer to the question, of course, depends on who you ask. For Head Coach Ben Olsen, making the playoffs for the first time in five years and reaching the conference finals for the first time since 2006 was a great accomplishment, but not the end-all, be-all.
“My message to [the players] before the offseason is: ‘We didn’t win anything,’” said Olsen. “As great as the year was and great as the feedback from fans and the community is good – it was hard work overcoming certain obstacles, but we didn’t win anything and that is the goal here.”
Defender Brandon McDonald echoed his coach’s sentiments, saying: “I think we have to lift some trophies here, and I think that’s what expected of us.”
Second-year midfielder Perry Kitchen shared a different perspective, however.
“I think we had all of the right pieces here this year,” Kitchen said. “You can look at [the season] a bunch of different ways, you know?”
“I definitely think we have the right mentality, and I think that’s the most important thing.”
While defender Dejan Jakovic was re-signed to the club today, many more players’ futures with United hang in the balance. Some of the biggest questions circle around 32-year old Branko Boskovic, who scored Sunday’s match-tying goal, and 28-year old Designated Player Hamdi Salihi.
Salihi himself kept mum on if he thought he would return next season.
“In the future, you never know because in this business, things change and can change everyday, especially when it’s the transfer time,” Salihi remarked.
On the playing time he received this year, Salihi commented: “When you sign with one club, you have to accept the decision from the trainer, from the staff…you have to just work hard and make things change in your favor.”
Boskovic, on the other hand, exited the locker room fairly quickly to make it to a doctor’s appointment.
Olsen, for his part, specially asserted the need in 2013 for a center forward with a killer instinct: “We’re going to have to continue looking for a striker, a guy who is a top-class guy who can really get us to the next level.”
“All the forwards gave us good moments this year. None of them had a real complete year from a playing and scoring and production standpoint. So they all helped. But do we need a big-time forward? Yeah. I would like to have that. It’s not easy to get that.”